I don’t remember the first time I learned it, but one rule of writing has been drilled into my head so deeply that I don’t believe I’ll ever get rid of it.
It’s the forbidden word.
There, I said it. It’s right there. There’s the word that good writers never use.
Don’t use there. You can’t use there. It isn’t descriptive. There should never be the subject. There is far too passive. It just sits there. Move those words around and make that sentence active.
So many English teachers, so many writing classes, and this is my biggest takeaway. Don’t ever use there. And I try not to do it. And when I read someone else’s writing, I rewrite their there-led sentences in my head.
But I can’t help myself sometimes. I use there.
Because in my decades of reading and writing, the thousands and thousands of books and the millions of words, I’ve learned another thing. And it clashes. Sometimes, good writers do use there. Sometimes it’s the right word. Sometimes it’s determined to insert itself into whatever I’m writing in spite of how much I try to stuff it down into some deep, dark, readerless hole.
Sometimes I can practically taste the cognitive dissonance.
But it’s a word, and there are so many words; I’ll never use them all (see what I did there?). There deserves to be read just as much as any other word.
But you know, you’re not supposed to use there.
In 2007 I had a chemical burn in my right eye. It was work-related, from undiluted sanitized solution. OMG. It was agony. As soon as that drop hit my eye I flew to the faucet and started flushing. About twenty minutes later, armed with the MSDS, one of my managers took me to the emergency room, which, fortunately, was only about a mile away.
I signed in and had to run back to the bathroom to flush my eye some more. I had to flush it in the triage room talking to the nurse. I had to leave my husband and manager to register me while I went to flush it again. Do you see a pattern yet? And of course, since it was worker’s comp, and the triage nurse didn’t see any urgency (possible permanent damage isn’t urgent?), I couldn’t get any treatment before I peed in a cup for a drug test. I finally did that, and continued to flush my eye in the treatment room while waiting for the doctor.
When he came in he put some magical drops in my eye that stopped the pain. Is there anything that feels quite as good as the cessation of severe pain? I don’t know. Well, he checked it out, yup, chemical burn, I’ll send a nurse in to flush it with some saline. I’d spent well over an hour flushing by this point, with no improvement since getting to the hospital.
Now, it’s one thing to cup water from a faucet and let it flow across your eye. That’s mildly uncomfortable, sure, but you get used to it, and it’s better than something burning straight through your skull. It is completely different to hold your eye open so someone can shoot saline into it from a needle. That’s pretty darn unpleasant. He kept asking if the burning was gone, and after over half a bag I figured it wasn’t going to happen, so I just told him yes so he’d stop. Ugh. I got a prescription for pain pills and went home.
Pills don’t help corneal burns. Just so you know. The only escape from pain was sleep, so I took a lot of benadryl. Worst part? One of my main hobbies is reading. Try that with a squint in your good eye from the pain in your bad.
I saw the ophthalmologist, who was not entirely optimistic about a full recovery. How encouraging. He gave me a cream to put in it. I followed up the next week and got some drops as well. The pain had finally gotten down to a manageable level, but now there was scarring, which may or may not go away, and severe damage to my tear film, which could take three months to get back to normal.
I couldn’t drive for a month, and it was nearly two before I got all my vision back. Even today, I still have problems with that eye. Quick moral: if the MSDS says wear goggles, your employer better supply you some fricking goggles.
But actually, this story is an analogy for infertility. Until something is painfully wrong, we assume that everything is right.
Most of my family wears glasses, but I’ve always had perfect vision, so I never gave my eyes a second thought. When this happened, I learned so much about eye health and eye anatomy and eye injuries and eye healing and eye ointments and eye home remedies. Did you know that the tear film on your eye is made up of three layers, one of which is waterproof? One of the other layers only exists to stick the first one to your eye, since tears would wash it away otherwise.
That’s what bothers me about infertility. In my case, I didn’t know something was wrong until something was wrong. Irregular cycles were explained away with youth or birth control usage, but those weren’t the real explanations. If we started out by learning more about our bodies, many of us would have known something was wrong, just from simple observation of our cycles. Maybe they should teach charting in health class. How much heartache would that save?